« AnteriorContinuar »
which will equally suit every thing, — that every creature which is capable of happiness, was made to enjoy that share of it which is suited to its nature.
Now what do we mean when we say that the several parts of nature are adapted to one another, but that they are made for the use of one another? I shall mention only a few of these mutual relations and uses; beginning with those parts of nature which are the most remote from one another, and whose mutual relations and uses are the least obvious, and so proceed to those in which they are more obvious. The sun, the moon, the planets, and comets, are strictly connected, and combined into one system. Each body, though so exceedingly remote from the rest, is admirably adapted, by its situation, magnitude, and velocity in its orbit, to the state of the whole, in those respects and many others. This connexion, probably, also extends to the remotest bodies in the universe; so that it is impossible to say that the withdrawing of any one would not, in some respect or other, affect all the rest.
The clouds and the rain are designed to moisten the earth, and the sun to warm it; and the texture and juices of the earth are formed so as to receive the genial influences of both, in order to ripen and bring to perfection that infinite variety of plants and fruits, the seeds of which are deposited in it. Again, is not each plant peculiarly adapted to its proper soil and climate, so that every country is furnished with those productions which are peculiarly suited to it? Are not all plants likewise suited to the various kinds of animals which feed upon them » So that, though they enjoy a kind of life peculiar to themselves, and all the influences they are exposed to are adapted to promote that life, they themselves are as much adapted to maintain that higher kind of life which is enjoyed by creatures of the animal nature.
The various kinds of animals are, again, in a thousand ways adapted to, and formed for the use of, one another. Beasts of a fiercer nature prey upon the tamer cattle: fishes of a larger size live almost wholly upon those of a less: and there are some birds which prey upon land animals, others upon fishes, and others upon creatures of their own species. That brute animals are excellently adapted to the use of man, and were, therefore, made to be subservient to the use of man, man will not deny. The strength of some, and the sagacity of others, are as much at our command, and are as effectually employed for our use, as if they belonged to ourselves. We can even turn to our advantage every passion of their nature, so that we can safely repose the greatest confidence in many of them. They are the guardians of our possessions and of our lives. They even enter into our resentments, and, at our instigation, take part in our revenge.
Having now advanced to man, the chief of this lower creation, and shown that all creatures of the vegetable and merely animal nature, live and die for his use, pride might bid us here break off the chain of mutual relations and uses, which we have been pursuing thus far, and leave man in the enjoyment of his superiority; but, — beside that it is contrary to the analogy of nature, in which we see nothing but what has innumerable secondary relations and uses, that man only should be made for himself; —
2. The situation of man in this world, or the external circumstances of human nature, still oblige us to assert with Paul, that "no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." Man himself is but a link, though the highest link of this great chain, all the parts of which are closely connected by the hand of our divine Author. Nay, the more various and extensive are our powers, either for action or enjoyment, on that very account, the more multiplied and extensive are our wants; so that, at the same time that they are marks of our superiority to, they are bonds of our connexion with, and signs of our dependence upon, the various parts of the world around us, and of our subservience to one another. In fact, every time that we gratify any of our senses, though it be in consequence of the exertion of our own powers, we are reminded (if we will be so just to ourselves as to take the hint) of our dependence upon something without us; for the means of our gratification are, in all cases, evidently without ourselves.
If we be served by the vegetables and the animals which this earth affords, we are obliged, in our turn, to favor their propagation, to promote their cultivation, and to preserve them in a healthy and vigorous state; and employment of this kind doth, in fact, take up a great part of our attention and labor. We must make the creature in some measure happy, if we would be effectually served by it. And the attention which domestic animals give to us, and their anxiety for us, is not to be compared to the attention we bestow on them, and the anxiety we undergo on their account.
But my subject leads me to attend to the connexion which man has with man, rather than with the inferior part of the creation, though it seemed not improper to point out that. In general, nothing can be more obvious than the mutual dependence of men on one another. We see it in the most barbarous countries, where the connexions of mankind are the fewest and the slightest. This dependence is more sensible, indeed, in a state of infancy, when the least remission of the care of others would be fatal to us; but it is as real and necessary, and even vastly more extensive, though less striking, when we are more advanced in life, especially in civilized countries. And the more perfect is the state of civil society, the more various and extended are the connexions which man has with man, and the less able is he to subsist comfortably without the help of others.
The business of human life, where it is enjoyed in perfection, is subdivided into so many parts, (each of which is executed by different hands,) that a person who would reap the benefit of all the arts of life in perfection, must employ, and consequently be dependent upon, thousands; he must even be under obligations to numbers of whom he has not the least knowledge.
These connexions of man with man are every day growing
more extensive. The most distant parts of the earth are now connected: every part is every day growing still more necessary to every other part; and the nearer advances we make to general happiness, and the more commodious our circumstances in this world are made for us, the more intimately and extensively we become connected with, and the more closely we are dependent upon, one another.
By thus tracing the progress of man to that state of happiness which he now enjoys, we may be led to think that, in pursuing it still farther, to a more happy state of being, adapted to our social natures, we shall find ourselves still more variously and intimately connected with, and more closely dependent upon one another; which affords a far nobler and more pleasing prospect to a person of an enlarged mind and of a social and benevolent disposition, than he could have from supposing that, after death, all our mutual connexions will be broken, and that every good man will be made transcendently happy within himself, having no intercourse, or at least necessary intercourse, with any being besides his Maker.
By these arguments, which are drawn from facts that are obvious to every person who attends to the external circumstances of mankind, it is plain that no man can live of himself; and even that the rich are, in fact, more dependent upon others than the poor; for, having more wants, they have occasion for more and more frequent supplies. Now it will easily be allowed, that every reason why we cannot live of ourselves, is an argument why we ought not to live to ourselves: for certainly no one receives an obligation, but he ought to confer one. Every connexion must, in some measure, be mutual. And, indeed, the circulation of good offices would in a great measure cease, if the passage were not as open and as free from obstruction, in one part of the common channel as another. The rich, if they would receive the greatest advantages from society, must contribute to the happiness of it. If they act upon different maxims, and think to avail themselves of the pleasures of society without promoting the good of it, they wHl never know the true pleasures of society. And, in the end, they will be found to have enjoyed the least themselves, who have least contributed to the enjoyment of others.
Thus it appears, from a view of the external circumstances of mankind, that man was not made to live to himself. The same truth may be inferred,
3. From a nearer inspection of the principles of human nature, and the springs of human actions.
If any man look into himself, and consider the springs and motives of his own actions, he will find that there are principles in his nature which would be of no use, were the intercourse he has with his fellow-creatures cut off; for that, both the efficient and the final causes of their operations are without himself. They are views of mankind and their situations, which call those principles into action; and if we trace the operation of them, we shall clearly see that, though they be strictly connected with private happiness, their ultimate and proper object is the happiness of society.
What other account can we give of that impulse which we all, more or less, feel for society? And whence is that restless and painful dissatisfaction which a man feels when he is long excluded from it, but that, in such a solitary condition, his faculties have not their proper exercise, and he is, as it were, out of his proper element 1
Whence is that quick sensibility which we are conscious of, with respect to both the joys and the sorrows of our fellowcreatures, if their happiness or misery were a matter of indifference to us? Can we feel what is sometimes called the contagion of the passions, when we find that our minds ontract a kind of gloom and heaviness in the company of the melancholy, and that this melancholy vanishes in company which is innocently cheerful, and question the influence of social connexions? Much less can the reality or the power of the social principle be doubted when a fellow